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Full text of "Mathura A District Memoir"

INDIAN  CASTE.                                                     413
body of carpenters called Ojhas (the word being a corruption of Upadh-
vaya), who are admitted to be of Bnihmanical descent and are invested with
the sacred cord. But common interests forming a stronger bond of nnion than
common origin, they are regarded rather as a species of the genus Barhai than,
of the genus Brahman ; their claim, however, to the latter title never being
disputed if they • choose to assert it. Similarly, as the trade of the usurer is
highly incompatible with priestly pretensions, the Brahmans who practise it are
gradually being recognized as quite a distinct caste under the name of c Bohras
and Athwarayas.' There are also some pstfwdo-Bralimanical and pseud&-T1n&kiir
tribes who rank very low in the social scale 5 but even their case is by no means
a parallel one, for it is admitted on all sides that the original ancestor of—for
example—the Bhats and Ahivasis was a Brahman, and of the Gauruas a Tha-
kur. The doubt is whether the descendants, in consequence of the bend-sinis-
ter on their blazon, have altogether lost their ancestral title or only tarnished
its dignity ; whereas with a Sonar who claims to be a Yaisya, it is not any
suspicion of illegitimate descent, nor any incompatibility of employment., that
raises a doubt, but rather the radical incompleteness of the original theory and
the absence of any standard by which his pretensions may be tested.
In short, excepting only the Brahman and the Thakur, all other Indian
castes correspond, not to the Scottish clans—with -which they are so often com-
pared, and from which they are utterly dissimilar—but to the close guilds
which in mediaeval times had so great an influence on European society. As
the Goldsmiths formed themselves into a company for mutual protection, so the
Sonars combined to make a caste ;—the former admitted many provincial
guilds with special customs and regulations, the latter recognized many subor-
dinate gotras ; the former required a long term of apprenticeship amounting
virtually to adoption, the latter made the profession hereditary : the former
required an oath of secrecy, the latter insured secrecy by restricting social in-
tercourse with outsiders. As the founders of the company had no mutual con-
nection beyond community of interest, so neither had the founders of the caste.
When, we say that all architects are sons of S. Barbara or all shoemakers of S.
Crispin, those being their patron saints, the expression is quite intelligible.
What more is implied ia saying that Sanadhs are sons of Sanat-Kumara ?
To attach any literal meaning to a tradition which represents a Brahraanical
caste as born of the G&yatri (a Vedic metre) is a precisely similar absurdity
to saying a company was born of the Pater Noster and Ave Maria, because on
certain days every member was bound to repeat his rosary. A history of easte-
rn the sense in which the phrase is'generally understood, v&., the tracing each
104